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MTA Responds to Council, Residents' Disapproval of Land Deal

A developer and the MTA are exploring the possibility of a massive mixed-use complex in Weho and keep local officials and residents out of the loop.

West Hollywood City Council members and residents spoke out Monday against the possibility of a giant mixed-use development at Santa Monica and San Vicente boulevards, prompting a response from the MTA.

In January the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority agreed to allow developer Cohen Brothers Realty Corp. to create a proposal to turn the existing county property that includes the West Hollywood Sheriff's Station into an underground MTA bus depot as well as a mixed-use commerical, retail and residential behemoth. 

Roger Moliere, MTA chief of real property and new business development, responded to local concerns in an email to Patch.

"The city of West Hollywood will have not only input, but essentially the final say in approval since as in any development, the city’s design guidelines must be met," he said. "As part of the process of any development and certainly in this case, there will be multiple efforts at public outreach as well as multiple public hearings relating to any proposal prior to final submissions."

Moliere also noted that "as a base line, any new development will be required to keep MTA whole—in the exclusive judgment of MTA as to operations and cost, of a bus division of not less than 280 busses. ... The current (agreement) does not constitute an approval of any project or require any approval in the future, it merely allows the developer to analyze, study and design a project and project economics that he feels will meet with the approval of MTA, the city of West Hollywood, who is the ultimate zoning and entitlement authority."

On Monday the council and residents expressed dismay that they were kept out of the loop.

"I will confess that I was completely in the dark about Charles Cohen's plans, and I think all of us here and all of us in the community would prefer that something other than the MTA bus yard be along Santa Monica," said Councilman John Heilman.

"All five up here were pretty flabergasted," Councilman John Duran said. "I haven't lived in the city of West Hollywood for 25 years and defended the Boystown district to see it turned into a mall."

Heilman added, "I don't think it is something that people need to be immediately alarmed, but it is alarming that the MTA went forward with that without getting input from our staff and without getting input from the council."

"It's reall hard to believe that both the city of West Hollywood and the Sheriff's Department would not know that this mega-development was going on," said Weho resident and council candidate Steve Martin.

Cohen Brothers president Charles Cohen, who owns the adjacent Pacific Design Center, did not return a call for comment.

News of the agreement was first reported Friday by WEHOville. Click here to read the website's story.

Be sure to follow West Hollywood Patch on Twitter and "Like" us on Facebook.

Dougie Fresh February 06, 2013 at 07:58 PM
Wow, this is amazing. And I can't help but notice that the proposed development includes 1,000's of parking spaces for BUSSES but NONE for the all the people who would be living / shopping in this massive complex! Hello???
Robert Zabb February 06, 2013 at 08:57 PM
This level of development belongs in Century City, not West Hollywood. Only a vacuum of city planning could allow this to even be proposed.
Riley February 06, 2013 at 10:39 PM
If our leaders DO NOT KNOW what's going on in our city THEY SHOULD NOT be on the council or be our city manager or our city attorney. If any of them DID KNOW about it and did not inform the rest of us, THEY SHOULD NOT be one of our leaders. When someone says the city is the final authority, who is the city if not the members of the community? There is an election coming up in less than a month. I urge the voters to take a serious look at the challenging candidates who promise more transparency and community participation. It is stories such as this one that make it clear we need a change.
Bazoo February 06, 2013 at 11:08 PM
Santa Monica blvd cannot handle the existing traffic can you imagine how much additional traffic would be generated by this mega mall with two huge office towers and a huge hotel? This is just a dumb plan. The red building at the PDC doesn't have a single tenant and they think they need two more huge office buildings next to it. Just plain dumb.
Ali February 06, 2013 at 11:29 PM
Duran's comment says it all for me - he has spent his career defending Boystown - and he doesn't want it turned into a mall. Well, he had no problem with a mall going into the east side and all the development going into the east side, turning it into a gridlocked mess. But good lord, don't touch his precious Boystown. This more than anything, shows his bias. Why shouldn't the west end get a mixed use project. It will get the busses underground, where they should be, add hotel space, and add retail and housing. Please vote in the upcoming election and PLEASE consider all the challengers. We need a new voice or two on the City Council.
WeHo Resident February 07, 2013 at 12:07 AM
There is just not enough streets/infrastructure to handle the amount of traffic this project would generate. What really floors me are the claims that no one at West Hollywood City Hall had any idea/inkling about this project. Really? City Council, Planning - no one?
JB February 07, 2013 at 01:01 AM
Not 1000's of spaces for buses, just the 280 they have. It is important when raising objections to this overly large development that we stick to the data provided. Reacting hysterically only results you one not being taken seriously. This is just the very beginning of a long and involved planning process.
me February 07, 2013 at 06:25 AM
they would have had me at WALMART but now their dead to me....do we really need to park all of those buses right in the middle of our city???....you don't see beverly hills drastically changing the entire look of their city like the clowns on our city council are doing.....that's because beverly hills believes in smart growth...we are quickly become a concrete jungle.....yuck
Weho Resident 50 February 07, 2013 at 03:39 PM
I commend the city for working to make improvements like this. Currently, this section of Santa Monica Blvd is a "dead zone", helping to keep the south side of the street vacated and struggling. Activating this area will improve businesses, the pedestrian experience, and the city overall. I'm tired of the "traffic/parking" rants every time anything new is proposed. These issues need to be addressed by working with MTA to improve mass transit through the area. Adding density in West Hollywood will actually improve the situation -- most of the traffic comes from people commuting through the city, not from within. More housing will help bring housing cost down, and will encourage more people to live here, closer to where they work, rather than commuting through the city.
me February 07, 2013 at 07:19 PM
"More housing will help bring housing cost down".....this part is especially laughable
Riley February 07, 2013 at 07:48 PM
@WR 50, You appear to be in 2D: Denial and Delusion. Traffic and parking affect each and everyone, every single day, day in and day out. Ranting needs to continue and get louder and louder until we, as a society, figure out a way to do something about it. I do not know where you live in, but in and around La Brea and SM Blvd. it is already gridlocked and with the 1,000 new units planned, + retail going in, over the next 2 years it will add a minimum 1,500 cars to an area from Fountain to Willoughby- 4 blocks, and from La Brea to Fuller-5 blocks, and that's not counting the cars coming and going for the retail in the mixed used (all the rage, you know!) buildings. The Tipping Point is upon us. On an average day there will be up to 2,000 cars added to the 20 sq. blocks taking two trips a day. When you look at "City Center" and the proposed MTA development, you need only to look at the article in wehoville by Gustav Heully reviewing the Red building at the PDC, in which he states there is NO PEDESTRIAN entrance. They have not planned for people to walk there, they have planned for people to drive their cars there, no matter what they ultimately put there it will bring the area to a grinding halt. I don't know if you watched the Candidates' Forum last night but Duran actually agreed there was a lot of traffic and then said something like we have to slow down...what? slowing down will help the traffic? The guy doing the commercial for the PRTs was starting to sound good!
Chloe Ross February 07, 2013 at 10:11 PM
Wal-WHAT????
Weho Resident 50 February 07, 2013 at 10:28 PM
It is simple supply/demand economics. When demand goes up, prices rise. When supply goes up, demand goes down. What is laughable about this?
Weho Resident 50 February 07, 2013 at 10:46 PM
@Riley - nothing wrong with ranting, but adding a few thousand people here or there is not the problem. West Hollywood is in the middle of a county with almost 10 million people, and a metro area with over 18 million people. Even if West Hollywood stopped all new development, traffic will continue to get worse unless some real mass transit solutions are implemented. Downtown, Hollywood, Century City, UCLA, and the west side will continue to grow. West Hollywood is trapped in the middle, and we should be ranting at the council and at MTA for not doing enough give the residents and visitors of West Hollywood transportation options.
Riley February 07, 2013 at 10:56 PM
@WR50 - On your "we should be ranting at the council and at MTA for not doing enough give the residents and visitors of West Hollywood transportation options." I AGREE 100%. We can't even get them to start a trial of an "entertainment" trolley. "Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light!"
me February 08, 2013 at 12:53 AM
b'cuz its just not true in this area........sorry to burst your bubble WH50
Rudolf Martin February 08, 2013 at 08:35 AM
@WR50: you commend 'the city' for 'improvements like this' but whom exactly are you referring to? everyone from city council to management has been quick to claim they never heard of this project. am i missing something here?
Weho Resident 50 February 08, 2013 at 04:19 PM
explain why it is not true - just because you say so? is west hollywood so unique that normal markets don't operate the same way here? I think not. prices are dictated by the markets. the only way to bring housing prices down here is either to get people to move out of west hollywood and not want to live here, or to add more housing to keep up with demand. falsely manipulating the market with things like rent control or affordable housing doesn't really work long term, and has been shown to actually increase housing costs for the majority of the residents.
me February 08, 2013 at 05:49 PM
first of all, prices don't go DOWN here as you stated, but reread this statement you made then come back to me: "It is simple supply/demand economics. When demand goes up, prices rise. When supply goes up, demand goes down."
Ali February 08, 2013 at 10:13 PM
It doesn't have any tenants because it doesn't have a Certificate of Occupancy yet.
Ali February 08, 2013 at 10:16 PM
That bus yard has been there long before WeHo became a City. It is County property. Nothing anybody can do about it. At least the buses would be put underground where they belong.
Ali February 08, 2013 at 10:17 PM
As far as I can see, Beverly Hills believes in no growth. What, besides obnoxiously large homes, has been built there in the last 10 years?
Ali February 08, 2013 at 10:25 PM
That "more housing will help bring housing costs down" line is bull. Housing costs in West Hollywood never go down, only up. On the east side, they are going up and up in 50+ year old buildings. One bedrooms are now going for over $1300. All the new buildings going up on La Brea will be tiny apartments with rents probably starting at $1900 or $2000. How is this new development bringing rents down?
Weho Resident 50 February 08, 2013 at 10:39 PM
Ok I read it. You don't understand it? It is clear to me. The housing market is improving in general, costs are going up. There is also inflation over time, and if enough new housing isn't being built to keep up with demand, prices will rise.
me February 09, 2013 at 07:05 PM
oh yes ali, there has been developments in beverly hills....the montage hotel, condos/trader joes at burton way/san vicente, the annenberg center for the performing arts is being build now, and eventually the old robininson's-may site at santa monica/wilshire....the difference is, by and large they understand what their residents want and what drives locals and tourists to their city....they take pride in their heritage and also don't believe bigger is better....west hollywood aims to be a souless concrete jungle lacking of charm, greenery and open space and our beautiful city is being decided by developers who are in bed with our current city council....pasadena is another city that believes in smart growth and saving their local treasures
Stephanie February 17, 2013 at 07:46 PM
Here's a new facebook page where you can access news stories from various sources about what's going on behind the scenes and right under our noses in West Hollywood. Check it out. Become informed and cast your ballot for change on March 5, 2013. http://www.facebook.com/WhoOwnsWeho?ref=ts&fref=ts
me February 17, 2013 at 07:53 PM
SHOCKING!!!....when you see it all on one page like this.....yes, WHO owns weho is a good question!!!....can you say {{{{{{{ D-E-V-E-L-O-P-E-R-S }}}}}}} boys and girls???....the city is clearly for sale and our city council members are selling it all off one block at a time.....who wants to live in a concrete jungle of buildings 6 or more stories up creating a dark tunnel along santa monica blvd, sunset blvd and la brea ave????.....not to mention the insane gridlock of cars on all streets in every direction....do the RESIDENTS really want a Mini- Manhattan???...ohhhh yes, that's right, the city doesn't ASK its residents want they want.....they just ramrod their developer friends projects down our throats....thankfully, a lot of people are starting to fight back against this insanity.......join the fight now people, once the deal is done, there's nothing you can do but choke on the mess the council has created.....GREAT JOB putting this page together folks!!!

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